Selected Compositions

Everything We Say is Deformed

electroacoustic music

Everything We Say is Deformed was derived in part from sketches of the score to the multimedia performance work Reading Frankenstein. Coming from its origins as a theater piece, this soundscape allows glimpses into an environment suggesting a peculiar type of “art-song” for voice and virtual ensemble. The text also comes from Reading Frankenstein and was written by Antoinette LaFarge, Annie Loui and Mary Shelley. The reading is by actress Marika Becz (who appeared as Mary Shelley in the play).

Sounds Seen (and some not quite…)

electroacoustic music

Sounds Seen (and some not quite...) is part of a series of “sonic mobiles”. Its material forms an environment that allows glimpses of an imagined larger scale structure for virtual percussion ensemble. Serial procedures derived from time-point techniques were used to create durational sets that invoked particular spatial and temporal trajectories. Real-world sounds were recorded, aligned and juxtaposed against their “found” and processed counterparts. Elements pass by each other sometimes in opposition, sometimes colliding, but always in some state of motion and collusion. The piece received its premier performance in November 2002 on the Cycle de Concerts de Musique par Ordinateur in Paris, France. A first round winner in the 2003 New York ISCM competition, Sounds Seen was also selected as an official US Submission to the 2004 World New Music Days in Switzerland.

it comes to tell us it is gone

string quartet

it comes to tell us it is gone is based on the Gregorian Sequence for the Easter Liturgy Victimæ paschali laudes. While the chant itself is never heard as an exact quote, it initially appears in a palimpsest-like fashion as if it is an ancient and re-constructed relic. A short prologue introduces the chant object through four fragmentary statements. These statements encapsulate the chant melody and act as a touchstone for motivic and formal development throughout the piece.

The main body of the work exists within a tripartite design. Following the prologue, the first section consists of 11 episodes that examine motives, sub-figurations, and derivations taken from the initial material of the four chant fragments. This is followed by a fugal section that uses as its primary subject the first chant fragment. This fragment/subject also outlines the beginning phrase in transposition of Christ lag in Todesbanden. Presenting it here as a fugue subject acknowledges the influence of Victimæ paschali laudes on subsequent generations of composers, particularly Bach. The second chant fragment, which is an inexact inversion of the first fragment, serves as a secondary subject for further contrapuntal treatment. These two subjects enter and alternate with free episodes until the material unwinds, leading back to a slower and partial return to the motivic music of the first section. A short epilogue presents a final statement of the opening fragment, ultimately breaking free of the constrained pitch range that bounded the work to this point.

A preliminary compositional decision was to maintain development of new material autonomously from the original chant without adding extraneous music (while relying on a twenty-first century sensibility for support). This adherence to the chant naturally produced a limited melodic and harmonic range. This also reinforced a melodic signature that was distilled from the modality and contour of the original line. The intent was not to create a “neo-modal” or eclectic pastiche, or arbitrarily juxtapose conflicting aesthetics. Instead, the approach was viewed as analogous to a film-maker creating a period scene defined through the use of stylized settings and historically-informed mannerisms, filtered through the perspective of contemporary practice. The end result is one that, although derivative by process, can hopefully be seen as musically and stylistically “agnostic”.

The nature of the chant, its intended purpose, and its textual considerations suggest programmatic implications surrounding the idea of realization, loss and transformation. There is the obvious Easter story which is fundamental to the chant. One possible interpretation is that after ascension to heaven and transcendence, we are left with the aura of the event. This aura can take on different meanings depending on our relationship to it, tensions that may arise from it, and the context into which it is placed. In it comes to tell us it is gone, the shadow of this aura serves as allegory to the conflict and loss of tradition between religion and spirituality, contemporary and historical ideals, and by extension, our own beliefs and value systems.

reFRACTion

violin and live electronics

reFRACTion is an object that reflects its own history. Revealed through iterations of fragmented material, its final form is realized through the accretion of layered sound over time. From a simple and transparent opening statement, a foundation is derived which subsequently remains below the surface. Fragments are captured, processed, and added to a slowly evolving fabric.

There's no attempt to apprehend any musical narrative directly, the piece only does so in retrospect. The ear chooses between current and past events as histories begin to emerge and compete with one another – often productively, but also in ways that can be unresolved. To a certain extent, reFRACTion could be viewed as metaphor – a palimpsest of existence, where the past is covered up but continues to visibly influence the present.

canzona quello non è là

electroacoustic music

canzona quello non è là - (the song is not there) is a fixed media piece that derives all of its sounds from a single human voice. Dancing across the boundary between transformed sound and corporeal utterance, gestures that are amplified through manipulation are slowly reduced to reveal their unadorned sources. Sounds that are understood initially as purely sonic events, can gain reference and meaning when eventually seen through the lens of recognizable human expression. Vocal inflections become the focal point of activity, which are heightened in the absence of any text.

The source material comes from unused takes of a 1995 recording session in New York City with soprano Dana Hanchard for another work entitled On the Ayre. Initial processing and construction of canzona quello non è là was done primarily in Csound. Final work was completed in the fall of 2012 at the University of Sheffield Sound Studios in the United Kingdom.

info [at] markzaki.com